Monday, April 02, 2007

Linda Clifford: Sleazy, Misleading Campaign Ads

One of the more bizarre things about the very expensive and rather dirty race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is the fact that the liberal (Linda Clifford) has been accusing the conservative (Annette Ziegler)of being soft on sex offenders.

This isn’t merely a matter of opinion. It’s simply untrue, and Clifford is being intentionally misleading.

The facts of the case are outlined in this press release from the Ziegler campaign.
West Bend – Linda Clifford’s campaign has been caught lying again. In both a press release and new attack television commercial, the Clifford campaign deliberately attempts to mislead voters.

Clifford’s campaign claims that nearly 60% of the child sex offenders (1st and 2nd Degree Sexual Assault and Repeated Sexual Assault of a Child) sentenced by Judge Ziegler were given a year in jail or less. However, they include the following cases in their calculation:
  • 1997CF000270 – The sentence in that case was handed down by Judge Richard Becker, not Judge Ziegler.
  • 2001CF000271 – The defendant in this case was sentenced in multiple cases (see 2001CF000359) on March 15, 2002 and was given 25 years in prison by Judge Ziegler for his crimes.
  • 2000CF000432 – The defendant in this case was convicted of a misdemeanor and not eligible for prison.
In eight of the nine remaining cases Clifford cites, Judge Ziegler simply was signing off on the district attorney’s joint agreement.

“Linda Clifford should be ashamed of herself for launching these desperate attacks against a judge who is known for her tough sentences of sex predators,” said Sheriff Maury Straub, who is one of the 54 sheriffs endorsing Judge Ziegler. “Linda Clifford has a clear problem with telling the truth and voters are going to reject her dishonest campaign on Tuesday.”

According to the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission, the median prison sentence given for Repeated Sexual Assault of the Same Child (948.025(1)) is 10 years. Judge Ziegler’s median sentence for the same crime is 20 years in prison – twice the statewide number.

Additionally, since 2000, Ziegler has been substituted ten times in child sex offender cases. During that same period of time, the other three judges in Washington County were only substituted for in a cumulative total of four child sex offense cases. That means Judge Ziegler has been substituted on over twice as many times in child sex offender cases as the other three judges combined.

“Judge Ziegler has one of the strongest records in the state when it comes to handing out sentences to child sex offenders,” said District Attorney Todd Martens, who is one of the 43 district attorneys endorsing Judge Ziegler. “Sex offenders actually work hard to get out of her courtroom because they know what her real sentencing record.”

Judge Ziegler is the only judge and only prosecutor running for the Supreme Court. In addition to the bipartisan support of a majority of Wisconsin’s sheriffs and district attorneys, Judge Ziegler has been endorsed by every law enforcement organization that has endorsed in the race.
The Clifford campaign has made a big deal of Ziegler’s failure to recuse herself from several cases that involved West Bend Savings and Loan (where her husband sits on the Board of Directors).

But nobody has even claimed that anybody was treated unfairly in any of these cases, which were mostly so routine that they were handled by a clerk.

But what are we do think about the ethics of a candidate who intentionally tries to convince voters that a judge who is in fact tough on sex offenders is actually lenient?

Is there an ethical problem about that?

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